It’s school vacation week for most of the region’s public schools, and instead of flying to Disneyworld or spending the week skiing the trails at Loon, some elementary school kids spend part of their vacation at WPI, learning the engineering concepts involved in designing a prosthetic leg, constructing a paper trophy capable of supporting a soccer ball, or making an electric circuit using conductive dough.
WPI kicked off five days of activities in recognition of National Engineers Week with Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day, a longtime popular program for girls in grades 3–5, in which the participants take part in hands-on activities that teach basic engineering principles. Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is designed to encourage interest in engineering and sciences and help increase the number of women in those fields.
Throughout this week, there will be a range of engineering-related programs in conjunction with admissions information sessions and campus tours. Those include tours of mechanical engineering, nanoenergy, and medical robotics labs, as well as chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, and robotics engineering demonstrations. See the week’s full schedule here. http://www.wpi.edu/Images/CMS/Engineering/eweek-interactiveagenda-2015.pdf
“We have a National Engineers Week committee on campus, and that started about three years ago,” says Susan Sontgerath, associate director of admissions. She says the Dean of Engineering office works with faculty to coordinate the various demonstrations and with the Engineering Honor Society whose members participate in the events.
“It’s the bulk of the Admissions visitors that will be taking part in the National Engineers Week activities,” she points out. “We also have the Office of Multicultural Affairs involved, so they help specifically in planning the outreach for Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day, and Engineers On the Go.”
Engineers On the Go is another free program this year for boys and girls in grades 6–8, which uses hands-on activities to teach basic engineering. Both elementary school-age programs are run by student volunteers.
“This year we have some involvement from the engineering honor societies, which we haven’t had before, and that’s bringing a lot more undergraduate student involvement,” Sontgerath says. “The undergrad engineering students will actually be doing hands-on competitive activities every day on the stage in the Campus Center. They are asking that visitors who are here on campus get involved in those activities, and actually play along in those competitions.”
On Friday, the STEM Education Center will conduct the Increasing Diversity in STEM Education program for educators.
One event Sontgerath holds out some hope of saving is the Tau Beta Pi Snowball Catapult Challenge, which had been scheduled for last Sunday on the football field, but was postponed due to the blizzard.